Catalyst Conference 2011 in Atlanta…a Recap


I write a lot of notes at conferences, church services, and meetings. Almost always, without fail, I write them into my journal instead of an attendee workbook or some other conveyance. After all, that’s where my daily reflections are recorded, and notes are nothing more than a daily reflection from a particular event. It also serves to keep everything in one place. If I need to place my notes into another file or folder or convert them to digital text, then that’s easy to do.

Many of my notes end up being converted to digi-text, as I am doing right now. Why waste the time, you ask? Why not type into a pad or laptop instead of writing them down? Two reasons. Number one, I don’t want to. I’ll despise the day when the actual handwritten word is completely lost to us, so I do my part, however miniscule, to keep it alive. Number two, it’s a recall and memorization technique. My memory is eidetic (not photographic), primarily working best when tied to an emotional event, and rewriting or retyping the notes assists me in recall.

With all of that said, I am about to give you my notes from the Catalyst 2011 conference that I just attended in Atlanta GA. If you don’t know what Catalyst is, check it out. It’s well worth the effort and the trip. Imagine 2 full days of high energy worship experience with over 13,000 people. My hope is that you will be able to take something with you from my notes. This conference touched me in a way that I was not prepared for. Perhaps it can reach out to you as well through these keyboard scribblings.

Disclaimer- unless surrounded by quotations, consider each note to be either a paraphrase from the speaker or my own reflection based on the speaker’s words.

To check out my photos from the event, click on my Facebook page. If you’re not one of my friends, why not?

The focus and theme of the conference was…Be Present.

Andy Stanley, author and megachurch Pastor.

Andy Stanley always has something edifying and good to say. He’s very business-like and straightforward like me. I always look forward to his topics.

  • The more successful you are, the less accessible you become
  • If you refuse to face this reality, you will burn out by trying to be accessible to everyone
  • Be careful also of using success as an excuse to become more inaccessible than necessary
  • Unawareness truly is bliss. Awareness of needs makes you want to become more accessible
  • You can’t shut it all out, but you can’t take it all on either
  • You have a limited time, a limited responsibility, but a responsibility does exist
  • Don’t worry about being fair, just do for one what you wish you could do for everyone
  • Go deep rather than wide
  • Go long term rather than short term
  • Go for time, not just money
  • When you do for one, you often end up doing for more than just the one

Name Your Link"".

Jim Collins, business guru and author

It goes without saying that Jim Collins is the megabomb of business speakers. Many people have read his books and know of him but few know anything beyond that. I appreciate Collins even more because of his work outside of the business world. He is an accomplished climber and outdoorsman and knows and appreciates the struggle of both mind and body.

  • Good is the enemy of great
  • Greatness is not a product of circumstances. It is a product of discipline and effort
  • The answer is not what happens to you, but what you do in response to those events
  • Try to change every ‘what’ question into a ‘who’ question. Think about the who on the team. It’s not just your strategy for climbing a mountain that matters as much as it is who is on your team that can keep you alive.
  • Bad decisions with good intentions are still bad decisions
  • Jim used the story of the race to the South Pole between Amundsen and Scott as a prime example during his lecture. I found this highly enlightening because my wife and I attended a special exhibit at the National Geographic Museum in Washington DC earlier this year on that event.
  • You must exercise fanatic discipline to ensure success. Amundsen vowed to march 15-20 miles every day without fail, no matter what. Scott’s schedule was erratic. He would go hard one day, do nothing the next, go light, go hard, rest, complain, etc.
  • You must use empirical observation and practice. Scott went to Antarctica with a lot of untried methods, such as motorized vehicles and ponies. In the end, his men ended up pulling most of the sleds themselves. Amundsen learned from the Eskimos and used the tried and true method of dogs.
  • You can make creative leaps based on empirical insight. It’s like artillery fire- fire, adjust, fire, adjust, fire, fire for effect. My father, a second generation artilleryman has described this process to me often.
  • Use productive paranoia, always asking what if and channeling it into action
  • The only mistakes you learn from are the ones you survive
  • A signature of mediocrity is chronic inconsistency in values. You must continue to change your practices but not your values
  • You must always preserve your core and stimulate progress
  • Innovation without discipline only gets you so far
  • You must marry creativity with discipline so that it amplifies it without destroying it
  • Be rigorous but not ruthless with your personal decisions
  • A Ten Point To-Do List (to actually do some of these, you need to read his books, starting with Good to Great):
  1. Run your good to great diagnostic tool with your team. (Available online for free from Jim Collins right HERE.)
  2. Answer the question of how many key seats you have and work to fill each one within a year
  3. Build a personal Board of Directors
  4. Get your personal hedgehog right. Find your genetic coding
  5. Set a twenty mile march and stick to it
  6. Fire bullets (remember the artillery example) and test things. Don’t get frozen. Fire at least 6 significant bullets a year
  7. Turn off the electronic-ness of your life for one day each week and practice a time of quietude
  8. Create a ‘Stop Doing’ list (Jim mentioned the existential dilemma of having this item on a ‘To-Do’ list)
  9. Double your reach to people half your age
  10. Set a BHAG that just makes you really useful, not just effective but useful

Jim Collins’ Greatest Hits"".

Dave Ramsey, financial guru

I have followed Dave for a very long time and his teachings have saved me from a lot of heartache. Dave taught on Core Philosophies that Matter.

  • People matter. You need to know your relational IQ
  • Understand that not everyone that breathes is a qualified volunteer
  • Are you an ass (Dave used the term donkey, but I think the KJV wording works better here) in a stable full of thoroughbreds or a thoroughbred in a stable full of asses?
  • An incredible team and a team culture matter
  • Slow and steady matters. Don’t ever outgrow your financial resources
  • Financial principles in all apsects of life matter
  • Don’t ever try to operate without a plan. Plan for excellence and execute the plan
  • Generosity matters. Love giving of yourself and your money
  • A higher calling matters

Dave Ramsey Goodies"".

Francis Chan, author and Pastor

I was excited to hear Chan again. When he spoke at Catalyst last year he was embarking on a great spiritual journey, and I was excited to hear where he was at in that journey.

I didn’t actually take any notes during Chan’s lecture. He’s so captivating and from the heart as he speaks that you just want to sit and listen as he talks. Taking notes would get in the way of absorbing the words.

Francis Chan Fights Back With Words"".

Blake Mycoskie, Chief Shoe Giver at TOMS Shoes

I’m actually an anti-TOMS Shoes kind of guy for several reasons. I’ve talked about it before, but since then other things have happened to add to that displeasure with the company. I’m planning on writing Blake a personal letter to see if he can clear any of that up for me.

Mark Driscoll, Pastor and author

I’m a big Mark Driscoll fan and have been looking forward to this talk.

  • When you fear, do you go into fight, flight, or fright mode?
  • Fear is not always a sin, but it is always an opportunity
  • Who are you most afraid of?
  • When you fear someone you cannot love them
  • Who’s opinion matters way too much to you?
  • Is your appetite for praise way too healthy?
  • Are you overly devastated by criticism?
  • Are you committed to people and things that God did not call you to? Very busy but not very holy?
  • Fear is vision without hope
  • Fear is not always rational but is always powerful
  • Fear is about not getting what we want
  • Fear preaches a false gospel and replaces Christ with a false functional savior
  • Fear turns us all into false prophets, imagining something that doesn’t come to pass.

Mark Driscoll Books in the House"".

Scott Todd

  • We are in a battle with our own low expectations
  • We must really get hold of a Gospel that is both lived and preached in our lives
  • The church must awaken to the issues surrounding us
  • Serving other is not an either/or job. It’s a yes/and job. We must serve them both locally and globally

Dr. Cornel West, Professor and the inspiration for the Matrix

I’ll be perfectly honest. I’d never heard of Dr. West before this interview session. After hearing his story and his words, I feel pushed to read his works and learn more about him.

  • Love means going on the offense
  • “I’m still a Christian with gangster proclivities.”
  • Gather the data, find resources, engage in self-purification, ACT
  • We are in the church, but is our church really in the community, really in the world?
  • We’re not tired because we’re doing too much or moving too fast. We’re tired because we’re doing the wrong things.

Fight Power with Dr. West"".

Jeff Foxworthy, comedian

I was pleasantly surprised, but Foxworthy preached more than he joked. It was great to hear.

You don’t covet what you’ve never seen or heard of. Imagine an African tribesman coveting a BMW. So how can we expect people to covet and desire the love and grace of Christ if they’ve never seen it?

Funny Stuff Here"".

Priscilla Shirer, author

  • “I think people who keep journals are especially holy.” (She wouldn’t have to say anything else after this. I was hooked.)
  • Behold in the Bible means to stop and pay attention
  • Are you on the precipice of a Behold moment?
  • To Behold means to see things with spiritual eyes
  • There is a secret to properly Beholding
  • Something is wrong if you’re with God and you’re always the one doing all the talking
  • Give power with your words

Life Interrupted: Navigating the Unexpected"".

I purposely left the most introspective words for the end. I know that with such a long blog entry that many of my readers simply won’t make it this far. Maybe I did this out of fear. Maybe out of not wanting to expose and open myself up too much.

This conference affected me deeply. I wasn’t ready for that, but I don’t want to lose it. I want these feelings to stay with me until I follow God’s call on my life and feel His grace shining down upon me. This entire conference I felt like God was tearing my heart into tiny pieces. Every time I turned around something would bring me almost to tears. The lyric of a song, the title of a book, the words of the speakers. I barely held myself together.

My problem is that I’m just not sure what to do or even believe that I’m brave enough to attempt it. I’m scared. I won’t even tell you what God laid on my heart at the conference. Revelation would bring accountability, and I’m simply not strong enough for that yet.

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One thought on “Catalyst Conference 2011 in Atlanta…a Recap

  1. Via Facebook- Deanne wrote: “David, you are the bomb. I hope people read your blog and try catalyst next year. Oh, and p.s., maybe next time we can all debrief in the pool. That pool looked great!!!”

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